The formal health research literature on collaboration in primary health care comes at the issue from different perspectives, and so descriptions of what collaboration really looks like, and what it delivers, vary.
Most definitions highlight that collaborative care is highly patient-centred and involves the co-ordination and teamwork of a group of primary health care providers, including both medical and non-medical clinicians. These professionals work together as a team to meet the assessed health care needs of their client or patient. The distinct skills and expertise of providers from different disciplines, and their varied care settings, are accessed during the continuum of care. The goal of collaboration is to have services provided by the health professional that can best meet the individual's needs when and where they need it. Strong communication (in a variety of forms including face-to-face and electronic) and co-ordination also characterize these collaborative arrangements.
Interdisciplinary collaboration among health and wellness professionals involves [i]:
The Enhancing Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Primary Health Care (EICP) Initiative uses the following definitions:
“…an interprofessional process of communication and decision-making that enables the separate and shared knowledge and skills of health care providers to synergistically influence the client/patient care provided” (Way, Jones and Busing 2000). [ii]
Collaborative Patient-Centred Practice
“…is designed to promote the active participation of each discipline in patient care. It enhances patient and family centred goals and values, provides mechanisms for continuous communication among care givers, optimizes staff participation in clinical decision making within and across disciplines and fosters respect for disciplinary contributions of all professionals” (Health Canada, 2003). [iii]
Primary health care
“involves responding to illness within the broader determinants of health. It also includes coordinating, integrating and expanding systems and services to provide more population health, sickness prevention and health promotion by all disciplines. It encourages the best use of all health providers to maximize the potential of all health resources.” (Mable and Marriott 2002). [iv]
[ii] Way, D.O., Busing, N., and L. Jones, Implementation strategies: Collaboration in primary care-family doctors and nurse practitioners delivering shared care, (Toronto: The Ontario College of Family Physicians, May 18 2000), p. 3.